- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2005

LAKELAND, Fla. — The results, Tony Armas Jr. and Frank Robinson insist, will come. For now, the Washington Nationals are happy every time Armas steps off the mound with a sound right shoulder.

Which he did yesterday after three innings of work in the Nationals’ 6-5 exhibition win over the Detroit Tigers.

“Oh, I’m looking for results,” said Armas, who gave up three runs on five hits and two walks. “But I’m going out there, and I’m feeling good. What can I say? I just have to go out there and perform.”

The first member of Washington’s rotation to make his second start of the spring, Armas wasn’t as effective as his first appearance Wednesday against the New York Mets. He surrendered one run in the first (though it was aided by a poor double-play turn by Brendan Harris) and then served up a monstrous home run to Bobby Higginson and a double off the fence to Ivan Rodriguez in the third.

Originally scheduled to throw four innings, Armas reached his pitch count of 53 before finishing the third. The Nationals are being cautious with the 26-year-old right-hander as he attempts to return fully from his 2003 shoulder surgery.

“I’m just happy having him out there, getting his work in,” Robinson said. “As we get down the road, that’s when he’ll get a little sharper. For a second time out there, I’ll take it.”

Roster trimmed to 49

The Nationals made their first round of cuts, re-assigning 11 players to their minor league camp.

Gone are right-handers Seth Greisinger (a McLean native), Chad Durbin, Luis Pineda and Josh Karp; left-handers Micah Bowie and Bill Bray; infielders Rick Short and Jared Sandberg; outfielders Brandon Watson and Phil Hiatt; and catcher Drew McMillan.

Sledge the Versatile

Outfielder Terrmel Sledge got a rare start at first base as Robinson continues to try to find ways to work the versatile second-year player into his lineup.

Sledge played six games at first last season, and while it’s not his natural spot on the field, he said he’s getting better at learning the intricacies of the position.

“I’m definitely more comfortable than last year,” said Sledge, who is stuck behind Brad Wilkerson, Jose Guillen and Endy Chavez in the outfield. “The more positions I can play, the better. Whether I can give a guy a day off at first base or in the outfield, it doesn’t matter. I’m just trying to be as versatile as I can be.”

Even if he doesn’t use Sledge at first base during the season, Robinson is glad to have the option at his disposal.

“The most important thing when you’ve got a guy at a position he doesn’t play much is their willingness to do it,” Robinson said. “If they’re willing to do it and have a positive attitude, then they’re going to do the best they can. … I really appreciate that. And a ballclub needs that over the course of a season. You need people willing to do whatever it takes to help the team.”

Extra bases

Ian Desmond, the Nationals’ 19-year-old shortstop, made another fabulous play in the field. Two days after gunning down Baltimore’s Brian Roberts at the plate, Desmond went deep down the third-base line to catch a pop fly, then turned and fired to cutoff man Brendan Harris, whose relay to first base completed the double play.

“That’s instincts,” Robinson said. “You cannot teach that. That’s two of the best plays I’ve seen. And I don’t just mean in spring training. I mean seen by anybody.” …

Esteban Loaiza will make his second start of the spring today when the Nationals play the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla. Ace left-hander Mark Mulder starts for St. Louis.


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